Charcot’s neuropathy is usually the result of a number of factors that create the right conditions for it to develop, including nerve damage in the feet due to diabetes or injury. Loss of sensation in the foot’s nerves can lead to abnormal gait and stress on the bones and joints of the foot. Bone degeneration and fractures can also occur easily, resulting in deformity.
Early symptoms of Charcot’s neuropathy are redness and swelling. However, once the condition progresses, the foot joint and surrounding bones will break down and cause the foot to become unstable. At this point, the process to heal the foot will slow due to degeneration. In the final stage of Charcot’s neuropathy, the bones will harden in the new position and cause deformity.
Charcot’s neuropathy is often difficult to diagnose early on because x-ray and laboratory tests will appear normal. This condition is usually suspected in those with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy when patients show signs of red, swollen feet.
When Charcot’s neuropathy is detected early, severe damage and complications can usually be prevented. Supplements and reducing weight on the foot are effective treatments. Also called off-loading, this involves putting the foot in a cast and using crutches or a wheel chair until the swelling reduces. In severe cases where the ankle and foot are deformed, surgery may be required.